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Basin and Range (1981)

por John McPhee

Outros autores: Ver a secção outros autores.

Séries: Annals of the Former World (1)

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8971624,379 (4)30
To geologists, rocks are beautiful, roadcuts are windowpanes, and the earth is alive-a work in progress. The cataclysmic movement that gives birth to mountains and oceans is ongoing and can still be seen at certain places on our planet. One of these is the Basin and Range region centered in Nevada and Utah. In this first book of a Pulitzer Prize-winning collection, the author crosses the spectacular Basin and Range with geology professor Kenneth Deffeyes in tow. McPhee draws on Deffeyes' expertise to dazzle you with the vast perspective of geologic time and the fascinating history of vanished landscapes. The effect is guaranteed to expand your mind. McPhee's enthusiasm is infectious, as he provides one of the best introductions to plate tectonics and the New Geology. His elegant style is more pleasing than ever with narrator Nelson Runger's smooth, enthusiastic delivery. Runger mines the book's rich veins of poetic prose and subtle humor-and the result is pure gold.… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 16 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
An unusual book, a delightful read, but does it work for its technical aspect?

I think this was a series of New Yorker pieces, which would certainly explain some of the style. As a book, it lacks a coherent narrative thread. In particular, the geomorphology of basin and range (a new concept to me, as a reasonably geologically literate but non-US reader) is explained briefly, but could have used a warning, "Pay attention, this next concept is going to be referred to endlessly hereafter without any more explanation". Also who's the local Nevada mayor in the last chapter? Deffeyes? Some other character whose name we slip? A good editor, unafraid of McPhee's deserved stature, could have made this work rather better as a book. Even a map would help us foreigners.

The beginning of the book has the feel of a travelogue. A Theroux, maybe even HST piece (HST meets the last sun-crazed silver miners?), of gentle companionship and wandering through backwoods America. Midway it moves more towards a geology textbook. This is when it really starts to take off, although I'm unsure of the audience. A handful of foreign geologists? Sophomore students? But the urbane New Yorker reader with clean shoes, do they know the geological background or care enough about the arcane added knowledge? The chapters on 18th century Edinburgh, Hutton, and the invention of geology; on silver-mining and recovering old mine wastes; or best of all, the impact of plate tectonics on geology in the 1960s. I knew (fortunately) all of these things before picking up the book: but I realise now I'd never really understood plate tectonics, or appreciated just how young ocean floors were until reading this.

I was reminded in the end of Sebald's 'Rings of Saturn' (no bad comparison); it's 'a walk outdoors with one of your smartest friends'. A little directionless, but all of it fascinating. ( )
  Andy_Dingley | Mar 13, 2024 |
Ostensibly about the geology of the Basin and Range province in the western United States, but in truth an introduction to the history of geology and the author's series on the geology of the United States as experienced across Interstate 80.

In this volume the author spends much time with Prof. Deffeyes of Princeton, whom we learn is really interested in discovering the silver the miners of a previous era overlooked or did not find of sufficient quality to dedicate time and effort to mine.

The author interweaves an explanation of geologic concepts and a sketch of geologic history and the human history of geology and understanding the environment. The rest of the series is anticipated.

There is some discussion of the Basin and Range as a spreading area in which, at some point, a new sea will open up, just like the Red Sea and the Great Rift Valley from Israel to Kenya.

Of the volumes in the series this is the most uneven; its ending isn't even really much of an ending, leaving the author and reader kind of hanging in Winnemucca, Nevada.

But still an interesting exploration into the geology of America. ( )
  deusvitae | Oct 26, 2023 |
McPhee gave me some useful perspectives about where I grew up, basin and range, in southern Idaho. ( )
  mykl-s | Jun 4, 2023 |
John McPhee’s Annals of the Former World is a five-book masterpiece of geology. The series was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1999.

Basin and Range is book one in the series. Basin and Range is a term for landscapes that have parallel mountains and valleys. The Great Basin in the Western United States is one of the best examples of this type of topography.

One of the major themes of this book is the radical new (at the time) idea of seafloor spreading. This controversial theory shook the geology world in the 1960s. The idea is that new earth crust is created in the oceans at midoceanic ridges and pushes outwards from there. This process explains continental drift and plate tectonics. If McPhee had to sum up the book with one sentence he said it would be this: The summit of Mt. Everest is marine limestone.

McPhee tells many kinds of stories in this book. It’s partly a travelogue of trips he took with a geologist through the Great Basin along I-80. He explains Earth’s processes that formed the landscape he sees along the interstate.

But he also tells the stories of geologists today. They don’t all see geology the same. A new idea like seafloor spreading is not universally accepted all at once. Many geologists even fought against it.

One of my favorite parts of the book is when McPhee talks about “deep time,” his term for explaining geological time. It is the best example I’ve read of comprehending large-scale time frames that are counted in millions or even billions of years.

Do I recommend it?

I’m not a geologist, but I had a great time reading this. However, I’ve always had an interest in the Earth and its processes, so I may be a little biased. The writing is phenomenal and for a book about rocks, I think it can hold many people’s interest.
( )
  samuelpedro1992 | Feb 7, 2022 |
John McPhee's first part of the Annals of the Former World collection is stunning. It's tough, gritty and full of words that feel as good to read as the taste sour lollipop. To me, geology is mystifying, fascinating, and as McPhee so eloquently lays out, full of poetry. This is a lovely book of prose about the earth, deep time, and a brief history of the field of geology. ( )
  b.masonjudy | Apr 3, 2020 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 16 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
JOHN MCPHEE has written with dizzying competence about everything from oranges to the making of bark canoes to the proper method of weighing food. Not only is he an excellent journalist, he is a veritable master of expertise, and his latest book, ''Basin and Range,'' represents yet another such foray, this time into the geology of the American continent in the company of scientists who have spent their lives climbing, hammering and measuring everything mineral they could lay their hands on between New York and California.
adicionada por aathiessen | editarNew York Times, Paul Zweig (May 17, 1981)
 

» Adicionar outros autores (5 possíveis)

Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
John McPheeautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Krupat, CynthiaDesigner da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado

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To geologists, rocks are beautiful, roadcuts are windowpanes, and the earth is alive-a work in progress. The cataclysmic movement that gives birth to mountains and oceans is ongoing and can still be seen at certain places on our planet. One of these is the Basin and Range region centered in Nevada and Utah. In this first book of a Pulitzer Prize-winning collection, the author crosses the spectacular Basin and Range with geology professor Kenneth Deffeyes in tow. McPhee draws on Deffeyes' expertise to dazzle you with the vast perspective of geologic time and the fascinating history of vanished landscapes. The effect is guaranteed to expand your mind. McPhee's enthusiasm is infectious, as he provides one of the best introductions to plate tectonics and the New Geology. His elegant style is more pleasing than ever with narrator Nelson Runger's smooth, enthusiastic delivery. Runger mines the book's rich veins of poetic prose and subtle humor-and the result is pure gold.

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